Crow Pushes Congress to Strengthen Immigration Detention Facility Inspections

Congressman Jason Crow and Allison Hiltz of Aurora City Council outside the immigration detention facility in Aurora.
Congressman Jason Crow and Allison Hiltz of Aurora City Council outside the immigration detention facility in Aurora. Conor McCormick-Cavanagh
Jason Crow is leading an effort that would require immigration detention centers to allow members of Congress who wish to inspect facilities inside them within 48 hours after making a request.

On April 4, Crow and nineteen other congressional House Democrats sent a letter to the leaders of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, urging them to include language in the upcoming Homeland Security budget bill that would force facilities operated or contracted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement to allow members of Congress in.

The freshman Democrat tried to investigate the Aurora detention facility — which is run by private prison company GEO Group through a contract with ICE — in February following reports of infectious disease quarantines and shoddy health conditions, but was told that visiting requires an appointment. ICE then denied multiple tour requests from his office, including when Crow asked to be part of a press tour of the facility.

"Unfortunately, I was turned away and not given access to the facility. This underscored my concerns about the lack of transparency about the facility," he said in an interview on March 1.

Crow was finally able to visit the Aurora facility 24 days after his initial request to inspect it. Not long after the tour, Crow said that he would work to make such visits easier for members of Congress.

"Getting a tour of the facility was never the end goal here. This entire process was about conducting congressional oversight," Crow said on a press conference call on March 15.

Following the disease outbreaks, the Aurora facility has been working with the Tri-County Health Department to offer the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine to both staff members and detainees. In March, former detainee René Lima-Marin filed a legal claim alleging medical neglect in the facility.

To handle an influx of new detainees, the facility expanded its 1,100-bed facility by remodeling an existing annex, which added 432 beds. The move drew the ire of local politicians and Crow because it happened largely in secrecy.

When asked on March 15 whether he would consider closing the detention facility in Aurora in the future, Crow said he was unsure.

"It remains to be seen," Crow said, before adding, "We'll see whether this facility should continue to move forward."

The full letter to the House subcommittee is available below.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Conor McCormick-Cavanagh is a staff writer at Westword, where he covers a range of beats, including local politics, immigration and homelessness. He previously worked as a journalist in Tunisia and loves to talk New York sports.